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Sudan: UN expert urges release of detained journalists and rights activists

Sudan: UN expert urges release of detained journalists and rights activists

UN human rights expert Mohammed Chande Othman
An independent United Nations expert today called on the Sudanese Government to promptly bring 11 detained human rights activists and journalists before a court of law or release them immediately.

The 11 people were arrested by Sudan’s National Security Service between 30 October and 3 November this year and have reportedly been held incommunicado since then.

The Government has not specified the charges brought against them, provided them with access to legal counsel, or brought them before a judge to review the lawfulness of their detentions, Mohammed Chande Othman noted in a news release.

“I am concerned that the arrests and detentions of these 11 persons may be linked to their legitimate activities in defense of human rights,” said Mr. Othman, who was appointed to serve as the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

“Sudan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Covenant’s guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention are an integral part of the Bill of Rights of the Interim National Constitution of the Sudan,” he stated.

The expert, who undertook his first fact-finding mission to the country in January, stressed that he remains concerned about the increasingly difficult situation for human rights defenders across the country, particularly during this crucial period in which Sudan prepares for its historic referendum on self determination for the people of Southern Sudan.

That vote, scheduled to take place on 9 January 2011, is among the provisions of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended two decades of war between the north and the south.